Manatee catches Air Force flight to Puerto Rico

My husband’s unit worked on this mission so I just had to share it. Enjoy the video!

by Master Sgt. Bryan Gatewood
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) — Air Force officials partnered with specialists at the Fish and Wildlife Service and the South Florida Museum to transport an 840-pound male West Indian manatee, along with six biologists and two veterinarians, from here to San Juan, Puerto Rico Dec. 9.

Fish and Wildlife Service representatives contacted officials from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard‘s 156th Airlift Wing for assistance in transporting the manatee. A Puerto Rico ANG C-130 Hercules already was at MacDill supporting maneuvers for U.S. Special Operations Command. Air Force officials seized an opportune moment to provide support for this effort at no additional costs.

Members of the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., assist in transporting an 840-pound male manatee Dec. 9, 2010. Accompanied by six biologists and two veterinarians, the sea cow is heading to San Juan, Puerto Rico, after suffering minor injuries in a boat strike. Officials from Air Mobility Command and the Puerto Rico Air National Guard’s 156th Airlift Wing are working together to airlift the mammal to San Juan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Angela Ruiz)

According to Dr. David Murphy, consulting veterinarian from the South Florida Museum, the sea mammal, called “UPC,” is healthy, but requires special accommodations in a shallow containment area due to injuries sustained from a boat strike.

Biologist Dr. Antonio Mignucci-Giannoni added that the boat strike damaged UPC’s diaphragm, causing the animal to be negatively buoyant which means it will sink if not in a shallow containment area.

UPC received its name because the injuries made by the boat strike look like a barcode.

Researchers at the Caribbean Stranding Network in Puerto Rico are interested in UPC as part of their efforts toward manatee conservation. The West Indian manatee currently is listed under the Endangered Species Act. UPC will serve as a surrogate parent to orphaned manatees in rehabilitation. UPC soon will have a new life at the Puerto Rico Zoo and a new name, Guacara.

Jonathan Perez Rivera from the Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center pours water on a wounded manatee after a four and a half hour flight from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., to San Juan, Puerto Rico, aboard a C-130 Hercules from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard’s 156th Airlift Wing. The manatee was being transported to its new home in the Puerto Rico Zoo (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Angela Ruiz)

by Senior Airman Katherine Holt
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

12/10/2010 – SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AFNS) — A five-year-old manatee now known as Guacara has arrived in Puerto Rico after a flight down from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

The manatee was escorted by Dr. Antonio A. Mignucci, director of the Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center; Dr. David Murphy, South Florida Museum; and a Parker Museum consulting veterinarian and six biologists.

Scheduled to be euthanized Dec. 10, Guacara was transferred from the South Florida Museum to Puerto Rico on a Puerto Rico Air National Guard C-130 Hercules at no additional cost to the Department of Defense. The Air Guard aircraft already was at MacDill AFB conducting a training mission with U.S. Special Operations Command, giving Air Force officials a great opportunity to help a great cause.

During the four-hour flight to San Juan, Guacara was spoiled with rubs and pats from the crew members.

“It was such a great experience having him on the flight with us,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jose Vidal. “It was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m honored we were able to be a part of it.”

When the flight landed, Guacara was greeted by members of the 156th Airlift Wing including Col. Carlos A. Quinones, the 156th AW commander. Also in attendance during Guacara’s welcome home party was Maj. Gen. Antonio J. Vicens, the adjutant general of Puerto Rico.

“The Puerto Rico National Guard is committed to preserve nature and wildlife through its many environmental programs,” General Vicens said. “Helping to save this manatee is an example of our dedication to the preservation of our ecosystem.”

General Vicens was not the only servicemember pleased to bring Guacara home safely.

“Flying Guacara on our aircraft was incredible,” said Capt. Cesar Lozada, a 198th Airlift Squadron aircraft commander. “We have put a lot of things on this aircraft, but the manatee was a first for me.”

After his arrival to San Juan, Guacara was transported to the Puerto Rico Zoo where he was placed in his new home. Guacara will serve as a surrogate to orphaned manatees in rehabilitation.

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